We are all “in process,” all on life’s journey, all at different stages. We are moving, if not physically, along the timelines of our existence on Planet Earth. No one knows at what point he or she is on, how many years are left, how many lessons still required. Who am I to say you’re traveling too fast or too slow? Who are you to suggest I’m better off going east than west, or point out that my choice of luggage is out of date? We would be doing each other much better service as fellow human beings if we simply got out of each others’ way more often, or at least offered to carry some of the load.
None of us is “okay” in the sense that anyone has it all figured out. Perfection has only been lived out by Jesus – Buddha tried and failed, Mohammed tried and failed, saints and sinners from Adam to Zebulun have tried and failed. Some show better outward progress than others, but no on else hits the bulls-eye of God’s holiness every single second. It’s hard to argue with a book that’s sold a gazillion copies and been on the New York Times bestseller list, but people are not so easily put into such tidy boxes unless it’s the one colossal box that says “unfinished.”
I was thinking of some personal changes this week as we are packing up to move back to Florida. Packing is not a new concept, but this time it caught me off guard. As nearly as I can figure it, I have moved 25 times in the last 53 years, an average of moving every 2.12 years. That's a lot of packing.
God has blessed recent moves in tremendous ways. We sold out in Florida when real estate was incredibly high in St. Lucie County. Next week we will buy when real estate is incredibly low there – tough for the local economy, but a smart time for anyone needing to buy (or wanting to get out of debt). In between we’ve had acreage, raised livestock, done the ranch thing. The last house we have been in (until next week) is big enough, we thought, that we could live comfortably here forever. Room for the live-in grandchildren to grow up in, plenty of breathing space, woods all around. Ten acres to do with whatever we chose over the years, over the rest of our lives.
Enter Plan B.
It began a year ago, when financial wisdom pointed to selling and downsizing. We put our house on the market, began looking for older homes in town. There were advantages – I could walk to work, we could get out from under a mortgage and credit card bills. We showed the house to several enthusiastic families, but no contracts were signed.
Then, what seemed to be twist in the road. In December, my husband David decided that we should return to Florida. This from a man who worked outside in the Florida heat trying not to get “bear caught,” who’d claimed he would never, ever live in Florida again! For him to make such an abrupt, radical change in his thinking…well, he interpreted this as divine leading. That decision made, we had a contract on our house within a matter of weeks.
Our move to North Carolina had meant (for me) giving up an excellent job, a great support system, but the hope of having time to write more and help raise grandchildren. Our move back to Florida means giving up an excellent job, a great support system, and the hope (again) of having time to write more and help raise grandchildren, but who can say what will happen in the next few years?
What have I learned in the last five and a half years? That God uses surprising, sometimes baffling methods. That he uses whatever and whomever in our lives to guide us in his direction if we are open to his plans and purposes. For example, he has used some challenging circumstances to reveal a problem with co-dependency….something I would have denied and argued against vehemently in years past. Not I!
I’ve learned that being self-aware and taking care of me isn’t necessarily selfish. And I am delighted to find that after more than a decade, God is giving joy back into my life for more than just moments at a time. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m not complaining. I don’t know why he waited so long to send it. I don’t begin to understand his methodology, but I am loving it. A lot of things in life are overrated – joy is not one of them.
Could God have sent joy to me in Florida all these years, taught me the same lessons there, saving time, money, energy? Apparently not. Because God is faithful to lead us where he needs and wants us to be, to bring certain people into our lives, to use us in certain peoples’ lives along the way. That assumes, of course, that we have followed perfectly, and I am quite sure we have not. But I am confident that even if we had dug in our heels, stubbornly staying put when he was pointing northward, he would have used that too.
God uses our mistakes, our sins, our disastrous decisions. He uses the people who hurt us as well as the people who cheer us on. He is God. He never misses an opportunity to further his kingdom within us and all around us, never wastes an incident, is never surprised by a sudden turn of events.
Some people accuse Christians of making God in their own image, but there is nothing more foolish. God isn’t anything like I would make him! Isaiah 55:9 tells us that “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are (God’s) ways higher than (our) ways and (his) thoughts than (our) thoughts” (NIV). I could fret or argue or turn away from God because he doesn’t act like the Santa Claus in the sky I really hoped for, someone who always answered my prayers the way I wanted and in the time frame I demanded, but to me, it is a tremendous comfort that God doesn’t do my bidding. This sometimes annoying, sometimes infuriating characteristic of God only cements my belief in his existence and sovereignty.
When David began talking about Florida, it was a little scary for me, I must admit. I have friends now in North Carolina to whom it will be painful to say good-bye. I have family here, as well as there; I fret about leaving them. I’ve had a great time here doing many things I enjoy. I’ve branched out, done more, been affirmed in many ways, learned important lessons about myself. And now, God is sending me somewhere to (perhaps) have those very lessons challenged, possibly misunderstood or rejected. The people who “knew me when” may or may not like the changes they observe.
To some, I may no longer be “okay.” I may not find some of their attitudes and behavior as “okay” as I once did. And that’s okay! I can trust God to work in this move as he has in all those other moves, to continue teaching and leading and guiding and directing and changing and growing me up into the woman he wants me to be. And that’s more than okay with me, because he alone is “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, NIV).
Now…if I could just remember where I packed my toothbrush.